Housing project preserves quality in time of tear-down

About the time he said that, the security car rolled up again.

We couldn't stand there without CHA permission, the guards said. Even with a resident? Even with a resident.

After they threatened to call police, we went to visit Aida Maisonet.

Maisonet is 76 and lives in a spotless apartment with plastic flowers in the window and a plastic sheet on her gold sofa. She welcomed us in to inspect the interior features of the Lathrop Homes.

"The buildings are made of concrete," Fine said. He knocked on a wall to show how sturdy it was. He tugged on the stairway railing to show how solid.

The kitchen and two bedrooms were small by modern standards, but pleasant. The floors were level.

"There's nothing wrong with this," said Fine. "These were built with public funds. What they're proposing is to use public funds to destroy them and they're asking for more public funds to build something new."

Fine is not a public housing advocate. His group didn't recommend saving other housing projects. But he does see a connection between preserving these buildings and preserving a community for people short on clout and cash.

His Friday visit gave him another glimpse of how difficult it can be for Lathrop residents to advocate for themselves.

"If I, as an upper-middle-class white male who owns my own home, was threatened with arrest for daring to step on the property to have a conversation with a resident," he said, "I can't even begin to imagine the oppression the residents of CHA have to live under every day of their lives."

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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